Pep talk by McKinley Magnet principal raises concerns about Common Core test security _lowres

Wiley Brazier

The principal of McKinley Middle Academic Magnet School in Baton Rouge provoked an immediate sit-down with Central Office administrators Tuesday with an end-of-the-day intercom pep talk that some listeners took as an admission he had been reading what students were writing that week on standardized tests.

Liz Frischhertz, chief of accountability and assessment for East Baton Rouge Parish schools, said Principal Wiley Brazier was not careful in his words, but there’s no evidence that he read test booklets completed by students, which would be a violation of test security.

“He never had access to the tests,” she said.

“It’s a comment he should not have made,” she added.

Still her office has reported the matter to the Louisiana Department of Education as a possible breach in test security, and the middle school is under increased scrutiny for the remainder of testing, Frischhertz said. She also said teachers who still have concerns can give her a call.

Attempts to reach Brazier for comment Thursday night were unsuccessful.

Common Core-connected testing in Louisiana started Monday and continues through Friday. A second session of these tests will be given in May. Third- to eighth-graders are being tested in math, reading and writing via exams developed by a consortium called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

Brazier’s comments on the intercom were heard by the school’s 750 students and dozens of staff and faculty members, but they were apparently not recorded. Frischhertz said her office had someone at the school monitoring the testing, but testing was over already that day so that person had already left campus.

Frishhertz said her office and her counterpart at the state were contacted by several teachers and at least one parent right after Brazier spoke on the intercom. She said Brazier that afternoon came to meet with her and Adam Smith, the school system’s executive director for middle schools, to explain what happened.

Frishhertz said Brazier wrote a short statement recounting what he said and the key passage was a congratulations in which he told students something to the effect of “I’m really pleased with your writing.”

The principal explained that he came to this conclusion, while walking through classrooms, based on observing kids hard at work and talking to some afterward. He described those conversations as general in nature, and specific questions and answers were not discussed, which would have been a violation, Frischhertz said.

Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.